Life, Culture and Travels from the perspective of a Cuban
“An overdue conversation with Cuban painter Harold Lopez Munoz”
Categories: Cuba Inside Out

Agujero Negro Harold Lopez

Harold Lopez resides with his girlfriend in an apartment located next to the coast, in the centre of Havana. I am thrilled to be at their home as interviewing him has been on my mind for a few years.

The smell of fresh-made coffee got to the living room only a few minutes after my arrival. I am looking at his own paintings on the walls as the tiny espresso cups are brought on a tray.

“Should we start with your drawings as a kid?” I ask. – “How did your parents react to your artistic inclinations?”

“I used to devote many hours to drawing. I got my parents’ full support from the beginning and while I was studying at San Alejandro in the 90’s.”

The disagreements came after he graduated. His father wanted him to paint landscapes and he was into the expressionism. -“He feared I was not going to be able to make a living. I won the battle when I started selling my first paintings”.

San Alejandro is Havana’s Academy of Fine Arts at which Harold graduated in 1998. Those were difficult times in Cuba as there was not even an art store for students to buy supplies.

Soon we start to talk about his mixed style and influences. We get comfortable as there is nothing better than talking about art with a painter. He gets his inspiration from painters, film directors and writers. I also find out that he is a huge fan of soccer and baseball.

“I think I would classify my work as pop – expressionism, if that is possible. I admire the European impressionists and expressionists of the of 19th century and the beginning of 20th century, the New York School with Kline, Pollock and Kooning and many other painters like Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud and David Hockney”.

He believes that cinema was definitely the art of the 20th century. Directors like Coen Brothers and Tarantino are on top of his list as well as French cinema.

“I have nothing to do with science fiction and metaphysic. I like street poetry and intimate stories. I remember the first time I read Bukowski, I was fascinated. Anything that smells like disenchantment and disillusion attracts me and if it is done with humour much better. No tears allowed”.

We walk out to the balcony and while we look at the stunning view of the sea he talks to me about how he works from home and at odd hours, day or night. He enjoys being near his work in progress and mentally, he is always painting.

”I could either spend two months without painting or I could frantically paint for long periods of time. I have an obsessive memory of my paintings. I remember the exact days I painted them and their measurements. It is hard to work without music, painting for me is a great responsibility and by working with music I ease the pressure and trick myself by thinking I am just having fun.”

"Mitades" harold lopez

His paintings are like his children, he suffers and enjoys them the same way. He thinks that it is pity that almost everything he paints is abroad and is forever gone.

Harold would love to visit New York’s MOMA, Kandinsky’s work in Munich or Munch in Oslo but he decides to stay in Havana, unlike other young Cubans who find their future out of the country.

“Havana is a good place to be an artist. Cuba is a socially atypical country and the artist nurtures himself of the conflicts and matters that need to be solved. I am interested in the human being in general so I could work somewhere else but here I have managed to achieved what I want”.

He explains how the biggest limitation in Cuba is to be able to leave the country but the artists manage to travel easier than the rest of the population. You obviously need to have the finances and contacts but it is possible.

Unfortunately, because of the limitations to access to internet, international calling and travel Cuba is in some sort of black hole which opens the path for gold diggers who come to Cuba and take advantage of the artists.

“Many painters, with the promise of an international exhibit, get scammed. I have been a victim of this type of situation. Cubans cannot buy art so the only way to sell your art is by sending it abroad. “

The few galleries in the country are controlled by the state. Art is still censured in Cuba. The possibility to invest in private galleries could help its promotion. “The state needs to give art more freedom and space, this way many things will start to change”.

Harold mentioned that his latest work is at the recently opened “Fabrica de Arte Cubano” (Cuban Art Factory), a project ran by musician X Alfonso. The collective exhibition can be seen until May 2014.



Also published on Medium.

2 Comments to ““An overdue conversation with Cuban painter Harold Lopez Munoz””

  1. Jennifer Gregory says:

    Is it possible to buy a painting over the internet?
    I saw a piece of his at an auction at the Canadian ambassadors home two years ago.
    “De dia”
    Very interested in his work.
    Jennifer Gregory

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